2015年6月18日 星期四

Jimmy Lee, Famed J.P. Morgan Deal Maker, Dies

Jimmy Lee, Famed J.P. Morgan Deal Maker, Dies
James B. Lee was pioneer in syndicated lending, played leading role on big-ticket deals
Jimmy Lee was previously head of J.P. Morgan’s investment bank.ENLARGE
Jimmy Lee was previously head of J.P. Morgan’s investment bank. PHOTO: T.J. KIRKPATRICK/BLOOMBERG NEWS
With the passing of James B. Lee Jr., Wall Street has lost one of its most quintessential figures—an archetypal investment banker who for four decades weathered booms, busts and changes in regulations by harnessing the art of deal making, networking with corporate chieftains and promoting his successes.
A vice chairman at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Mr. Lee, 62 years old, was at home exercising on a treadmill Wednesday morning when he became short of breath and went to the hospital, where he died, the bank said.
Mr. Lee was one of the most recognizable figures on Wall Street, a 1980s-style swashbuckling deal maker who nonetheless changed with the times and remained a major figure in finance until his death. Always colorful with his pinstriped suits and slicked-back hair, Mr. Lee saw his career take him into nearly every corner of deal making from financing to public offerings and bet-the-company mergers.
After the financial crisis humbled many on Wall Street, and many banks became better known than their deal makers, he stood out in part because of his gold-plated relationships.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., said Mr. Lee “believed in us long before many others did—when we were a small company with little revenue, he told us and anyone else who would listen how much potential he thought Facebook had. He was a trusted counselor.”
Mr. Lee, who originally joined J.P. Morgan predecessor Chemical Bank in 1975, was a pioneer of syndicated lending, a widespread practice today in which banks make big loans to companies that are divvied up among other lenders and credit investors to mitigate risk. The development of the syndicated-loan market has enabled companies and private-equity firms to raise increasing sums of money for takeovers—an essential component of the current mergers-and-acquisitions boom. He moved into bond underwriting in the go-go days for corporate mergers and acquisitions and leveraged buyouts in the 1980s.
Early on, he cultivated relationships with leaders of private-equity firms like Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group LP and Henry Kravis of KKR & Co., who later became major forces on Wall Street. He helped them make acquisitions using heavy dollops of junk bonds and loans. His franchise at J.P. Morgan—and personal stature—grew as successive mergers created what is now the nation’s largest bank by assets.
Mr. Lee eventually morphed into an adviser to chief executives like General Electric Co.’sJeff Immelt on all manner of deals. He was instrumental in helping Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp acquire The Wall Street Journal in 2007 and played a leading role in the relisting in 2010 of General Motors Co. and the $25 billion leveraged buyout of Dell Inc. in 2013.
In recent years, he developed a penchant for working with technology companies like Facebook amid a fresh wave of Internet-related IPOs. He advised Chinese e-commerce companyAlibaba Group Holding Ltd. on its historic initial public offering last year. As Alibaba prepared to go public in what would be the biggest IPO ever, at $25 billion, Mr. Lee frequently traveled to China to secure J.P. Morgan a leading role in the offering. At J.P. Morgan’s annual CEO dinner in late 2013, known internally as Jimmy’s dinner, it was clear he had made some progress: Founder Jack Ma was sitting next to him.
Ultimately, the bank was one of six tapped to lead the deal, but Mr. Lee still found ways to stand out. He chaired the company’s post-IPO celebration the night of its debut and that night introduced Mr. Ma.
When he died, Mr. Lee was deeply involved in one of the biggest deals ever: General Electric’s effort to sell the bulk of its $500 billion financing unit.
A media darling who made frequent appearances on television and in the financial press, Mr. Lee wasn’t shy about himself or his successes. Things didn’t always go smoothly, however.
Mr. Lee was the face of an ill-fated planned Twitter question-and-answer session in 2013. J.P. Morgan attempted to gather questions on the social-media platform that Mr. Lee would then respond to. The event was largely aimed at students interested in investment banking, but many on Twitter used it to make jokes and attack the bank. J.P. Morgan canceled the Q&A.
Employees at J.P. Morgan’s headquarters expressed shock Wednesday after learning of Mr. Lee’s death. He was scheduled to give an introductory speech for a summit of company directors, and then interview J.P. Morgan CEO James Dimon at the event Thursday.
“Jimmy was a master of his craft, but he was so much more—he was an incomparable force of nature,” Mr. Dimon said in a statement.
There was also an outpouring of praise and condolences for Mr. Lee from prominent Wall Street figures and other business leaders.
“He was really a giant of investment banking and he was the first person to turn to for financing a difficult transaction,” Martin Lipton, the longtime corporate-deal lawyer, said in an interview. “When you had something that was really difficult, someone would say ‘why don’t you call Jimmy Lee and get this done.’”
Mr. Lee, who was known to occasionally call fellow deal makers and others “dude,” created a longstanding tradition at J.P. Morgan known as “Pie Day,” in which he would bring pies or other desserts into the executive offices on Friday afternoons.
Mr. Lee received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, where he ran track and double-majored in economics and art history. He was known to actively recruit Williams graduates to the bank and served as a trustee for the past three years. He graduated in 1971 from Canterbury School, a Catholic boarding school in Connecticut, where he was co-captain of varsity hockey and track and co-editor of the school newspaper.
Last month, Mr. Lee’s personality was on display as Third Point LLC, the activist hedge fund run by Daniel Loeb, celebrated its 20th anniversary. Mr. Loeb threw a party at the new Whitney Museum of American Art and Mr. Lee was among the early arrivals along with Mary Callahan Erdoes, J.P. Morgan’s head of asset management. In a video tribute to Mr. Loeb, Mr. Lee jammed on an electric guitar, wearing a party hat, while Ms. Erdoes and others from J.P. Morgan sang “Happy Birthday.” He also was an honorary member of J.P. Morgan’s employee band called the Bank Notes, joining them on stage last year with his Fender Stratocaster for “Stand By Me” and other tunes at a senior leadership conference.
On a sunny morning at the end of May, Mr. Lee was in characteristic form in his 48th floor office in J.P. Morgan’s headquarters in Manhattan. As he sat on his sofa for a conversation, Mr. Lee, dressed in a tailored suit and fitted shirt with cufflinks, hopped up to take calls on various issues related to the GE finance sale. The ultimate networker, he also made a quick call to connect a tech startup to a Silicon Valley investor.
At a recent Wall Street charity event, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn recalls jokingly telling Mr. Lee, “I’m ready to throw you a party whenever you want to retire.”
Mr. Lee, who lived near other Wall Street tycoons in Darien, Conn., is survived by his wife, Beth, whom he met in college, and three children, Lexi, Jamie and Izzy.